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Schools Rugby is not child’s play or Authorities’ plaything

Schools Rugby is not child’s play or Authorities’ plaything

“Before you build a better mousetrap, it helps to know if there are any mice out there.” – Yogi Berra.

The factions on both sides of the Rugby table must understand and find out whether there are mice and, if so, what to do about it. That is, the  and the Ministry of Education on one side, with the Sri Lanka Rugby Union (SLRU) and the Ministry of Sports (MoS) on the other. There are conflicting opinions, views as well as accusations hurled. The fiasco of who does what or, who controls what, has to be resolved for the betterment of Rugby. plaything

Rugby needs players and they come through the pipeline from the schools. If a tournament is stopped, where it will lead to? It is not like bringing a referee from abroad. This is different, as you cannot bring players from abroad. Even the ETCA, if signed, might not be able to help as Rugby there is unlike what we play here. May be the Fijians may have Lankan roots. Possibly the Chinese who have been hanging around Sri Lanka for sometime, may be able to help, once the Port deal is signed, guided by a Rugby-loving Minister.

While we talk glibly about Rugby and its future, one has to look at the raw material needed to take the game forward. Saner counsel needs to prevail and decisions may have to be made at a meeting where all are standing because, when seated, all parties seem to be sitting on their brains and unable to think. That includes the Club representatives who sit in the Council, who should talk on the importance of School Rugby as the player feeder base. Most times, they would be more interested in talking about the ‘forward-pass’ or the ‘knock-on’ the referee missed in their game, and not about National Rugby. At the end of the day, the “Moron” calls the shots. News is also that the body, like the country, is cash-strapped, while being heavy at the top, and unable to even pay the referees. The Schools think that, one way out is to sell Schools Rugby as a package, so that, these governors may see daylight.

We have seen mice out on the field, supported by the clan out playing Rugby, not bothered by the outside fighting units. What will they do today is not important but, what about tomorrow, if these chaotic squabbles are not sorted out?

It is a question when people, whose children play for a school, sit and issue statements about the tournament or injuries at a particular match. Do it if you must but, on a personal note, and not using the office you hold. Similarly, the statement attributed to the Secretary, Schools Section, why action cannot be taken on the complaint of stamping of a Royal player, is ludicrous. It is here that the Schools need the support of the Union to get the mice to the cheese.

“” and “Haw” in how to deal with who took my cheese is a worthy read. It is not about saying I worked hard for it and why should I change. I did not because the problem was not my creation. Neither saying who moved the cheese nor is it fair, will help. What you need is a mentality to give up the old cheese and look for new cheese. School Rugby needs professional Rugby input but, the question is whether they should be involved beyond the operation of the School calendar.

Education is a subject for the ministry, but Rugby is not. One has to work hand in hand. Ethics and life for a student is a must, and sports should lead to ethical values if any, fostered by those in charge of education. Whether the SLRU should get involved in that area is conjecture. When the world governing body fines the SLRU for playing a Fijian, under eligibility laws by deceit, credibility is at stake, as you are playing with schoolboys. It is “samayang” of sorts, as those responsible are still at large. May be the new Right to Information will make me eligible to ask who paid the fine. What moral right have these panjandrum to lead schoolboys, other than to impart the technical knowledge they have.

Rugby wavers around as crowds throng school games, despite the clowning acts that surround the game. Adding to its woes are the jack-in-the-box types who spring to shout, “That was a thrilling game of Rugby” or say, “My! My! My! What a run”, only to follow and say he made a terrible mistake passing the ball or, could not catch it and missed a tackle completely. The basics are not anywhere close to being good, despite the money Schools spend. Close scores are not because good Rugby is played by even teams but, because terrible fundamental mistakes are made while mercenaries are making a kill and overusing schoolboys to justify their existence. The inherent passion in the spectator makes the game nervier, as they see it from their view, but it is not exciting.

It is in this background that Isipathana endured a fightback to defeat St. Joesph’s by 39 points to 32. The knack of Pathana to come back has been with them over the years, and they did just that. This should have been factored in by the Joes coach who was quite aware, having been the Park coach last year, and they came back a number of times. Joes lost the game as a result of bad handling, missing tackles and getting penalized when in a position to apply pressure. So did the Park school, despite a willingness to run the ball.

Royal got the better of St. Peter’s in another close match, winning 17-10 in a scrappy game. Peters were guilty of making mistakes and not running the way they should. Looked like they were mistaking that the goal line was closer to the touch line. Having pressurized Royal in their ’22′ for close to 20 minutes, they had only 3 points to show for their effort. An unlucky given “clean catch” saw Royal getting out of jail. Royal had a slow march from that stage, but collected points as the SPC lads made mistakes. A slow sloppy game of Rugby was seen as both teams were prone to make mistakes when they had the ball.

One that shook all was the close call S. Thomas’ had at the hands of Zahira. This was a suspense thriller. Most colourful in the match was the protest about the grounds. This match got under way after much fuss about the Maradana ground. Was this ground a threat to the safety of players because of the playing surface? I see better known grounds having a worse surface. Only threat I see is the lack of a perimeter fence. Which ground in Sri Lanka has that type of perimeter fencing. Don’t get bogged down on issues such as these. Play the game and identify chalk as against cheese.

There is more passion in the hearts and minds of old boys and parents. As the tournament progresses, hosts will have to bear in mind the need for better ground control. They got to stop converging even after the match is over. They also need to stop crowds getting in and sitting inside the playing enclosure. That is what is more important to discipline the crowd and set an example to schoolboys. Take a lesson from Peters, who handled a very physical and spirited old boy who was a nuisance and a rotten egg, as he boisterously entered the playing enclosure.

Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, coach and Accredited
Referees Evaluator IRB

For Sunday Times Newspaper

Posted on 2017-03-12 14:00:09
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QUESTION?

Should Dilshan have continued until Cricket World Cup 2019?

Yes No
THE DAY'S QUOTE

“That was pathetic. No excuse at all. The whole team is responsible. Whoever the captain is, we have to back him and try and support him. The captain has to do so many other stuff. All the 11 guys must back him and support him.” “We have addressed the issue of finishing off the overs on time in the past as well, but it cropped up again. It’s so unfortunate to see Upul going out as he is a crucial player in our set up. He batted well against South Africa and it’s so unfortunate. This can’t happen again,” - Angelo Mathews

FEEDBACK/COMMENTS

Cricket is a game of fine margins and Mathews is set to be a modern great. Hang in their Angie, this team can achieve something on this tour. Thirimane and the youngsters form was a real positive. Prasad was missed. Chameera should be persisted with. If Bairstow was our early outcome could have been very different.

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